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First impressions matter: Considerations when building a sender reputation

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We’ve all heard the saying, “You only get one chance to make a good first impression.”  While this is meant to describe two individuals meeting, the same concept applies the first time that mail is sent from a new platform.

Essentially, sophisticated anti-spam software has a few things in common with the human brain; most notably, a fear of the unknown.  This can create additional considerations when planning to migrate to a new ESP, particularly for senders with large volume campaigns.

So why do anti-spam systems fear the unknown?

1. New senders are usually spammers

Sends from new IP space are typically very bad.  Some reports have quoted that when an ISP sees mail from a new IP space, it recognizes it as spam more than 95 percent of the time.  This is due to bad senders who are always moving to new IP space, which has trained anti-spam filters to respond accordingly.

2. First rule of anti-spam is to stop spam

When in doubt, a good anti-spam should block or filter mail to spam as this is its primary purpose.  As the potential costs of allowing even a single malicious email through can be excessive (database breach, CryptoLocker, malware, as a few examples) the safest option is always to block/filter mail if the sender is not known.  Anti-spam systems are built to err on the side of caution and not deliver something potentially harmful.

3. Lack of a positive sender reputation is viewed with suspicion

Early generations of anti-spam would guess the authenticity of an email based on the words in the subject or body of the message. It would assume the message was valid unless it included suspicious words such as “FREE PRESCRIPTION MEDS”.  Today’s sophisticated solutions monitor the mail coming from sending IPs, as well as the authenticated domains and treat those senders appropriately based on prior send activity. While this system works much better, the mechanism ‘breaks’ when there is no sender history to judge. The result is a lack of a positive sender history, which is deemed as suspicious to compensate for the uncertainty.

Considerations when building a new sender reputation

While the process of building a new reputation can sound daunting or complicated, this is something that Adestra oversees on a regular basis.  Here are a few considerations when migrating from one sending network to another.

1. IP sending history

A good ESP is always able to provide previously ‘warmed’ IPs.  Essentially, IPs which are currently sending mail and have a positive sender reputation.  As IP sender reputation can be very critical in the first few sends, using previously warmed IPs helps clients bypass the most challenging phase.

2. Less is more during warm-up

For particularly high volume senders, a good ESP will work together with Account Managers to ensure that they are building sender reputation in advance of higher volume sends to ensure optimal delivery.  For example, Adestra’s Deliverability team monitors current ISP trends to determine when such a plan is required and will reach out proactively to clients in such cases.

3. Sender reputation

As this is all about building a strong and positive sender reputation, the first few sends should be extra careful and considered. They must be sterling examples of what all email marketing programs should strive to be; relevant, engaging messages sent to active recipients.  The first send from a new platform should not be the time to attempt more aggressive targeting or any other significant experimentation.

Summing up

While anti-spam can seem counter-intuitive, these systems are very risk adverse and are evaluating an unquantifiable number of variables, As harsh as it may seem, it makes sense that these mechanisms can respond aggressively.  With the help of the right ESP, however, anti-spam systems will be constantly monitored and analyzed to make sure that clients avoid all potential pitfalls.

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